Friday, October 14, 2022

Why Self Publish?

 "My question was, what is the process of self-publishing, what is the amount of effort that goes into it, and what is your overall opinion of it?"

I originally chose to self-publish (also known as independent or indie publishing) because I decided that my goal was to share my stories, and I would be satisfied by progress, no matter how slow, even if I didn’t make as much money or reach as many people. I've found several reasons why I prefer self-publishing to traditional:

1. I have all creative control. Traditional authors don’t get any say over their covers and very little over formatting, for example. 

2. Self-publishing is a lot faster. With traditional publishing, it can take months to even hear back from query letters, whereas I usually release a new book every six months. You get a higher percentage of royalties in indie publishing, so if you do manage to make it big, you’d be earning more money. You also get paid more often (usually monthly). 

3. I’ve heard that traditional authors have to do more and more of their own marketing anyway. As time goes on, publishers will put even more of their focus on big-name authors and less on new authors, or even mid-list authors (those who do well but aren’t hugely popular). Self-publishing has no gatekeepers, so it's especially good for those who write books that might not be as appealing to a wide audience, but still have niche readers out there who want to read it.

4. I can change things quickly. I can upload a new cover if the current one doesn’t seem to be working. I can fix typos or even re-edit a story within a day. I can even change the title or give myself a new penname. (A few things can’t be changed, though, including paper color. I accidentally published book 2 of a trilogy with white paper instead of cream, and that can’t be undone).

In both cases but especially in self-publishing, success usually comes a little at a time, and very few see results right away. This year, I finally made enough money to make up for all of my startup costs (website, the 4 covers I bought, experimenting with ads, etc), and I started in 2015.

I suppose I'll have to admit that there are cons to self-publishing. Not everyone wants or is able to invest in learning all of the different facets that go into publishing a book. You don't get a nice cushy advance right up front. Also, there is still a stigma against indie authors. While some indie books are amazing, anyone can publish anything, and some people have been turned off by the bad apples. My local library only accepts traditionally published books on their shelves, and many physical book stores do the same.

Self-publishing can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. Once you set up an account with amazon, it’s really simple to upload your story as an ebook. You can upload just about anything, no matter the quality. However, if you want to do it well, here are a few basics about the process to get you started:

The first step is to write the book, as well as you can. Next, edit as best as you can, with as much feedback as possible (preferably with a paid editor, but keep in mind that won’t be cheap). You’ll need to format your book or pay someone to do it for you. If you’re only doing ebook, this is easier, but you’ll still need chapter breaks and usually a table of contents, things like that. It’s much more involved with a paperback, since you’ll need to consider things like font and font size, page numbers, additional front material (title page, table of contents, etc), what the chapter breaks look like, and so on. You’ll also need a cover. Covers are super important for marketing, so this is not a place to skimp on time or money. Unless you really, really know what you’re doing, you’ll need to purchase one. Some places have premade covers, which are cheaper (find one you like and buy it, and they’ll put your name and title on it for you). Getting the paperback as well as the ebook will cost extra, if you go that route.

In case you’re wondering, I personally don’t hire an editor, a formatter, or (usually) a cover designer. I do have lots of beta readers, and I’ve been willing to put in work/study into learning the skills needed for all of these. It’s taken years and a lot of mistakes, and I’m still improving.

With self-publishing, you get what you put into it: the more you learn to market, and to put out a good product, the better you will do. 

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